A stunning visual encyclopaedia fit for a King
From BBC (The Beauty of maps)
This 16th century world map is drawn in the style of a sea chart, with 32 compass directions and navigational lines.
But it is not what it seems.
Presented in the style of a sea-chart with compass-roses, wind-faces and navigation it was clearly a work of art not intended for use at sea.
It is highly unusual in its dual orientation; north of the equator texts and figures are inverted, suggesting that it was specifically designed to be spread out and viewed around a large table.
The map is actually created as a work of art for the French King, Henri II (1519-1559), designed to be displayed in his 'cabinet of curiosities' or laid out on a table in his library.
The map comes from the renowned Dieppe School of Cartography.
It is a large, hand-produced item by Pierre Desceliers, combining knowledge from both French and Portuguese sources -two pioneering nations in the Golden Age of Discovery.
One striking feature is how accurate the coastal lines are for a map at this period.
Desceliers calls on geographical knowledge to paint a kind of visual encyclopaedia.
It is a large piece that is remarkably accurate on details of Europe and America - the discovered world.
It is also a work of extraordinary fantasy and speculation such as the notion that Australia is allegedly evident on the edges of the map 50 years before it was officially discovered.
Was this good luck or bound within real knowledge?
This view of the world is based on a blend of classical sources and direct observation.
It is a world-view from time of nautical discovery, as well a beautiful Renaissance work of art.
It is a fascinating look into the world of the cartographer and the artist, and amazing to consider the expertise that they had to develop to interpret the world that was being gradually unfurled in the 16th century.
- other world map from Desceliers (1546) : interactive Photosynth
- British Library images online : 1550 world map
- TheGuardian : Desceliers map details I / II / III / IV / V
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